Spine / สัน

Friday, February 1, 2008 at 8:42 pm 3 comments

Thai and English share the same concept of a spine. สัน means “spine,” for men and for books.

English speakers understand “spine” alone to mean the backbone. But in Thai, that is กระดูกสันหลัง—so it’s not a perfect match with English, but still easy to remember.

The spine of a book is สันหนังสือ (literally, “book spine”), correlating with English very closely.

Just remember that the spines (little sharp things) on porcupines and sea urchins are not the same word in Thai. That is a different concept with different words in each language.

Update February 4, 2008: Thanks to Rikker for pointing out in the comments that “ridge” is likely the best meaning for สัน. So go ahead and remember “spine” as a mnemonic for backbones and books; but to take it further, “ridge” is better for understanding.

Entry filed under: Pseudo-cognates. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rikker  |  Friday, February 1, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    This is an interesting word that I haven’t ever thought much about before. At its most basic, it means something like “ridge”. It has quite a few uses:

    สันหลัง = the raised ridge along the back, the spine
    –กระดูกสันหลัง = the backbone
    –ไขสันหลัง = the spinal cord
    สันมีด = the non-blade edge of a knife
    สันมือ = the edge of the hand opposite the thumb, running from the wrist up along to the pinky.
    สันเขา = crest of a mountain, a mountain ridge
    สันทราย = sandbar, sand ridge
    สันจมูก = bridge of the nose
    สันคลื่น = crest of a wave
    etc.

    Thanks for bringing my attention to this word.

    Reply
  • 2. Jason  |  Monday, February 4, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks, Rikker. “Ridge” is definitely a better overall picture.

    Those are all some very helpful words for speaking clearly and specifically. That makes me happy, since I’ve sort of been on a crusade against the myth that Thai is simplistic, a myth which promotes a negative stereotype.

    สันมือ is a great example because the Thai version beat you soundly on specificity. You couldn’t even think of a concise description. My best guess would be “the karate chop side of the hand.” I think maybe “blade of the hand” is correct—at least, shins and forearms have blades so maybe the hand does. Anyway, I’m sure that most Americans could not immediately recognize “blade of the hand” if you told it to them without context.

    So the Thai version is nicely specific and dense with meaning.

    Reply
  • 3. Jason  |  Monday, February 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Okay I Googled it. “Edge of the hand” or “hand’s edge” is the right term.

    Reply

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